There are two movies coming out this summer that should have all the comic geeks’ hearts a’twitter. The thing is, and this is my humble opinion, the characters that these movies are based on have had such a hit-and-miss history, that they both could easily go in the Spider-Man 2/Iron Man direction, which is to say home run, or the Ang Lee’s Hulk direction, which is to say “what the hell was THAT?” city. Allow me to explain….
Both Captain America and Thor are hitting the big screen this summer, filling in pieces of Marvel Comic’s strategy to bring The Avengers to the screen next summer in a cross-over-paloosa with Iron Man and the Hulk (the Louis Leterrier/Edward Norton Hulk, not the aforementioned Ang Lee green piece of crap). The thing about Captain America and Thor, as far as the comics go, is that they are very tricky characters to write, in that in the right hands they can be awesome, and in the wrong hands they can sink into parody very quickly to the point that they’re unreadable (Jim Shooter’s take on Captain American in the “Secret Wars” mini-series — or his take on any character, really — springs to mind).
That being said, lets take a look at the newly released trailer for Captain America:
I’ve got a good feeling about this one, because it appears they’re getting the origin story right, by starting it in World War II (I was really afraid they’d want to create a super solider for Iraq or something). The trick about Captain America is that the character believes in the American Dream (however hard that is to define) and American Ideals; not, specifically, America itself. He’s a true patriot in that he’s not afraid to raise his voice when he sees his country going down the wrong path, and would die to see the dream survive. There have been times when the character has become an outlaw when the country has gone in a direction he believes runs counter to those ideals (the latest being the “Civil War” run, where he became basically a rebel against his own government). In the hands of lesser writers, he can be a one-note character, “my country right, my country wrong, my country.” Recently, Ed Brubaker has been the writer of “Captain America,” and he’s got an excellent feel for the character and has done some really interesting things (including killing and bringing back Steve Rogers and making his old sidekick, Bucky, the new Captain America). From the :30 I’ve seen of this film, I’ve got a good feeling about it.
And, now, Thor
This one I’ve got mixed feelings about. On the plus side, you’ve got:
• Anthony Hopkins as Odin, which looks about right.
• The look of the film seems to be spot-on.
• I really have liked things Kenneth Branagh has done in the past (his version of Henry V was masterful)
On the negative side:
• The film is in 3D for no good reason (seriously, if I can find this playing somewhere in 2D, that’s where I’m going)
• Not to be THAT guy, but apparently they’ve got Asians and blacks (African-Norwegians?) as gods in Asgard. I’m fairly certain the Viking pantheon wasn’t that inclusive.
• I have really hated things Kenneth Branagh has done in the past (his version of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was a bit of a mess)
Thor is a tricky one to fit into this cinematic version of the Marvel Universe. Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America (along with Spider-Man, although because of film rights, doesn’t fit into this group) are all science based, whereas Thor is about as unscientific as possible, given that he is, well, the Norse god of thunder (but not rock and roll). It’s interesting that they actually address this in the trailer, when Thor explains that “Your ancestors called it magic, and you call it science. I come from a place where they’re one and the same.” I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but I hope they don’t stray too far from the root of the character – again, see Ang Lee’s Hulk. (Wait, strike that. Don’t see it. It’s terrible.)
Again, from a comic perspective, Thor has had his share of ups and downs. In the wrong hands, the character is all but unrelatable, to the point that if you aren’t REALLY up on Norse mythology (and really excited about it), you can feel your eyes glaze over. The latest writer, Matt Fraction, has had a really good touch of making Thor into a character you can care about, so he’s on an upswing lately.
Don’t know how these are going to go over, but I hope both films are: a) good, and b) popular. Interesting times….